By: Joanie Cox-Henry Contributing Writer
Delray Beach Fire Station No. 111 was a sea of medals and smiles on Feb. 13 as veterans gathered to have their photo taken with Honor Portraits, a nonprofit dedicated to capturing the image of men and women who have served in the U.S. Military.
The idea to start Honor Portraits came about in 2016 when co-founders and professional photographers Jerry Whitty and Flora Zolin embarked on a project to photograph veterans with their significant others.
“We have since photographed more than 250 veterans,” Zolin said.
With no official bricks and mortar location, Honor Portraits travels to various places to photograph complimentary pictures of vets as a simple gesture to honor their service. The photos are then put on a CD and given to veterans and their families as a memento.
“The joy we get bringing recognition to these veterans is our motivation to keep going,” Zolin said. “The Delray Beach Fire Department has been so wonderful opening their doors and hearts to us.”
Veterans with Patriot Guard Riders, an organization of motorcyclists who honor first responders and military veterans and their families and escort fallen vets at funerals, was chosen by Honor Portraits to pose for photos at the Delray event.
The group just escorted fallen U.S. Army Special Forces Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer who was tragically killed during a recent mission in Syria.
Fellow Green Beret Jeff “Cowboy” Garten participated in Farmer’s processional from PBIA to Jupiter was happy to pose on a motorcycle for Honor Portrait. “It’s very rewarding that Honor Portraits is doing this for veterans,” Garten said.
Zolin emphasized, while Honor Portraits is in need of volunteers, they are desperately in need of donations to purchase a new Apple laptop and a new American flag.
“We do this from our hearts so we’re very appreciative of donations and volunteers,” Zolin said. “We couldn’t do any of this without them.”
For military veterans such as James “Rabbi” King, the work Honor Portraits is doing to show vets they care has been deeply appreciated.
“I served in Vietnam and in 1992, someone shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome home’ and I honestly cried. It was the first time anyone had said it to me since serving as a combat infantry soldier,” said King, 71, who now resides in Lake Worth and works with Wreaths Across America at South Florida National Cemetery. “I’m proud of my service and I’m a proud Patriot Guard Rider and I think what Honor Portraits is doing for us is just amazing.”
Patriot Guard Rider Jim Vecchio, 71, of Boynton Beach, posed for an image with Honor Portraits he’s eager to share with his family.
“I’m very proud to have served in the military,” Vecchio said. “In 1967, my brother and I both joined. Our father served in the Navy and Army so this was something in our hearts to do too.”
Visit honorportraits.org to learn more about upcoming events or how to make a donation or volunteer.